Monthly Archives: February 2016

More pony grooming

A return visit last Friday (19 February) with volunteers who’d not been able to join us the previous week. Bee and Ascot were more willing to be caught than last time (though Bee was busy with a mouthful of rushes and needed coaxing to join us), and seemed pleased with the renewed attention (see picture of Bee dozing peacefully). And yes, they are definitely eating the rush – perhaps because it’s colder and there’s less grass to go at, perhaps they’ve only just realised how tasty it is? They’ve got a long way to go, but you can see some chewed off tufts if you look.

Leading Bee and Ascot to the gate

Leading Bee and Ascot to the gate

Even little Fell ponies are quite big!

Even little Fell ponies are quite big!

What are we going to do with this tail??

What are we going to do with this tail??

Even muddy legs get attention

Even muddy legs get attention

Bee is very relaxed!

Bee is very relaxed!

Robin – always nice to see

image

I know they are easy to spot but they are always a delight. This fluffy specimen was in the orchard today. We also spotted a tree sparrow and a pair of reed buntings but failed to capture them on SD. The field fare in the big meadow gave a good show… Added shot to the field fare post.

 

Ponies checked and groomed

Last Friday (12 February) a group of pony volunteers spent some time with Ascot and Bee, the two Fell ponies. They were checked over carefully by Chloe, our vet-volunteer, who declared them both in good health and certainly not underfed (that’s a polite way of saying they are distinctly tubby). The rest of us were invited to brush and comb them – there was plenty of mud to go at, and Bee in particular had achieved some remarkable self-plaiting of her mane. By the time we’d finished they looked distinctly smarter, and they seemed quite pleased with all the attention (unless it was the bag of hay they were given to keep them quiet). And yes indeed, they were clearly seen nibbling at the soft rush. The last few days’ colder weather has evidently slowed down the grass growth – if it would only last for a week or two, they might begin to make a serious impact on the rush.

Thank you to Aidan Cragg for the photos.

Ascot looking for treats in pockets (no luck)

Ascot looking for treats in pockets (no luck)

Plans for Ascot's facial

Plans for Ascot’s facial

Bee deciding not to be collared

Bee deciding not to be collared

Bee with three attendants

Bee with three attendants

Centre of operations

Centre of operations

Mane-straightening for Ascot

Mane-straightening for Ascot

Volunteer session Saturday 13th February

Here is Jonathan’s message to the volunteers

Greetings All,

There’ll be a volunteer session at Fairfield Orchard, Flora and Fauna this
Saturday February 13th, beginning at 10.00am and wrapping up at 1.00pm or
thereabouts.
The meeting point will, as always, be the toolshed near the Sunnyside Lane
entrance, before moving onto the stump circle.

If you’re able to participate, here’s what you might be getting up to…

* Marking out the Flora Field beetle banks in preparation for ploughing.
* Strimming or cutting the rush around the Hay Meadow ponds and moving the
resulting brash to the Gun Range to alleviate poaching.
* Further clearance of excess vegetation in Long Pads hedge.
* Scrubbing the mould off the benches.
* Reinstating the fence along side the Long Pads / Flora Field hedge.
* Planting four replacement fruit trees alongside supporting posts.
* Clearing the brash from fruit tree pruning.

And finally a word about footwear, given that it’s hardly stopped raining
for the last three or four months: wellies.

And that’s about your lot for this time.

Best wishes,
Jonathan.

Barn owl

The barn owl has been showing very well lately and seems to becoming something of a local celebrity (and quite right too). It has been seen both early in the morning and the late afternoon in and around the FAUNA reserve.

Barn owls tend to keep a low profile in poor weather, particularly in wet & windy stuff (something we’ve had a fair share of recently) as it makes hunting really tricky. Also, they have a tendency to get waterlogged feathers, which doesn’t help much either. So, it is best looked for during calm, bright conditions.

February flush count

We delayed a week because of strong winds and I was starting to think we would have to do so again. But it’s the southern part of the country that has born the brunt this time and so we ‘just’ had to combat a rain squall and more water underfoot than ever. A more rewarding snipe count this time: 80 snipe overall, double last month’s number. Breakdown: 1 found in Flora Field, 1 in Upper Sowerholme, 4 in the Hay Meadow, 19 in Big Meadow (including 1 jack) and 55 in School Pond (3 of them jack). In addition. there was a moorhen on School Pond and 8 teal in Willow Tree Pond (Lower Sowerholme). Later the same group of teal flew up as we entered the Big Meadow marsh and headed back in the direction of Lower Sowerholme.

Fieldfare and Mr Fox

Yesterday (2/2/2016) we saw 9 fieldfare in Big Meadow at about 3.45pm. About an hour later, they’d moved to the next field along, the corner field which has the Long Pads footpath running around 2 sides of it (not sure of its name).

And for any poultry owners out there – be alert! While driving towards Cannon Hill from town last night, we saw a fox cross the road in front of us, carrying, ahem, a chicken in its mouth. Not one of ours, thankfully. The fox was heading in the direction of Fairfield Nature Reserve….